Cultivating a Regional Network for Sexual and Reproductive Health
Samuel Nemir Olivares, Profamilia Puerto Rico Youth Director
At our annual Regional Council meeting last month, representatives from Member Associations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean spoke about the great progress that has been made in the region on sexual and reproductive health and rights, and challenges that still remain. Regional Director Carmen Barroso highlighted the achievements made by the network in 2011, which include the provision of more than 29 million services and securing 41 policy and legislative reforms.
“Many positive policies were secured and negative attempts were blocked," said Barroso. "These were important successes, and we should be happy about our work and efforts. However, we cannot become complacent--we must continue fighting to advance and achieve even more.”
Barroso was particularly concerned about the health and rights of young people, who face many barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health services as a result of stigma and discrimination.
Maria Antonieta Alcalde, IPPF/WHR Director of Advocacy, emphasized that time is running short, and that this is an important moment to create greater awareness about sexual and reproductive health and rights. With a 20- year review of the historic International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) fast-approaching, Alcalde urged Member Associations to actively engage in local, national, and regional advocacy efforts to ensure that their governments make progress on these issues, especially in ensuring sexual rights.
“One of our main agendas is to ensure sexual rights are recognized on the next agenda of the ICPD+20," Alcalde said. "This is the next global development agenda, and it will replace the Millennium Development Goals. The challenge to include sexual rights as human rights is difficult."
According to Alcalde, governments need to better understand the importance of sexual rights in achieving development and sustainability goals. Economic resources are not enough if citizens do not possess bodily autonomy.
The representatives who attended Regional Council enjoyed two full days of enriching panel discussions where they could share information and experiences about the projects and programs in their countries. Delegates from Profamilia Puerto Rico presented an “innovative alternative” to a traditional abortion clinic, Planned Parenthood Federation of America explained their legal support network, PLAFAM shared information about the Venezuelan health system, and Profamilia Colombia discussed its challenges with government alliances to provide sexual and reproductive health services during a humanitarian crisis. There are only a few examples of the many ways that attendees shared news and innovations on advocacy initiatives, communications strategies, and strengthening institutional data, finances, and sustainability.
The meeting ended with a renewed energy and commitment to increasing progress on sexual and reproductive rights and health throughout the region.